Council tables budget

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 13, 2009



EDGARD – The St. John Parish Council on Tuesday delayed passage of the parish’s $51.9 million budget after one member said he wanted more time to review the plan.

Division B Councilman-at-Large Steve Lee, who also heads the council’s Finance Committee, said he and his fellow members have only had “a short period of time” to look over the parish’s annual spending plan.

“It is an excellent budget that has been carefully drawn up,” Lee said. “But there is no need to rush into approving it.”

The council has until Dec. 31 to approve the parish’s balanced budget, which, administrators say is substantially tighter than spending plans of previous years.

St. John Acting Chief Administrative Officer Buddy Boe said the decrease in revenue numbers for 2010, which are down about $7.5 million from 2009, can be attributed to a less prosperous national economy as well as a decline in sales tax collection from the expansion project at the Marathon Oil refinery in Garyville.

The revenue figure almost mirrors the $51.8 million expenditure estimate, which shows a slight increase over last year.

To make up for the narrowed gap, the parish plans to bolster the budget with money from the $29.5 million bond issue passed by voters in April. The bond issue includes money for infrastructure improvements and additional levee protection.

“The budget includes funds to address various improvements to the parish’s sewer system,” said acting Parish President Pat McTopy. “We’ve set aside money to address the backflow issue and also built in about $1 million for a new booster pump to assist sewage flow through Reserve and Garyville.

“We are also looking into additional grants to address the sewer inflow problem. The bond issue will help us free up money for other areas in need.”

The council voted 7-0 in favor of tabling the budget. Council members Ronnie Smith and Darnel Usry were absent from the meeting.

After the meeting, McTopy said he was not bothered by the council’s decision to delay action on the budget.

“It’s a normal maneuver,” McTopy said. “It would have been outside the norm for them to approve the budget tonight. We are going to continue to work with the council to get it approved in a timely manner.

The council will continue discussions on the budget at their next meeting, scheduled for Nov. 24 in LaPlace.

In other action from Tuesday’s meeting, the council also approved a pair of contracts for design work on projects tied to the parish’s $29.5 million bond issue.

The council authorized Meyer Engineers and Chenevert Architects to begin work on two bond issue projects for the West Bank.

Meyer Engineers was awarded a $24,759 contract to design an entrance road, landscaping and a parking lot for the West Bank Recreation Complex in Edgard. Estimated cost of construction stands at about $220,000.

Chenevert Architects has been hired to draw up renovation and expansion plans at the St. John Parish Courthouse. The expansion is expected to add secure parking, expanded office space and more security features.

The parish is expected to spend about $1 million on the improvements.

Boe said design plans for both projects could be completed within six months.